Freedom's Shore (Book) | Zinn Education ProjectionFreedom’s Shore: Tunis Campbell and the Georgia Freedmen tells the incredible story of Tunis Campbell, a Northern abolitionist minister who heads South after the Civil War to help freedpeople in Georgia. In 1866, Freedmen’s Bureau Assistant Commissioner Rufus Saxton appointed Campbell superintendent of the Georgia Sea Islands. This position allowed Campbell to distribute 40-acre plots to freed families under General Sherman’s Field Order No. 15, which encouraged the redistribution of 400,000 acres of land the government had confiscated from fleeing Confederates. On land previously owned by some of the wealthiest slave owners in the United States, 425 Black families established one of the first experiments in post-war Black self-determination. They attempted to sustain themselves by shifting their farms from producing mostly cash crops to food. They started schools and created a democratic system of governance on the Island with their own constitution, congress, supreme court, and armed militia.

When the land was given back to its previous owners during Presidential Reconstruction, Campbell and many other moved inland and established another Black community in McIntosh County. It was here that Campbell helped build one of the most powerful Black political bases in Georgia. Campbell was elected as Justice of the Peace where he worked to tirelessly to provide justice to Black residents. He was also elected as a state senator where he fought for equal education, integrated juries and public facilities, the abolition of imprisonment for debt, and voting rights.

In one of the few academic texts on Reconstruction that is short enough and accessible enough to be read and understood by almost any high school student, Duncan uses Campbell’s story to tell a crucial narrative of Black power during Reconstruction. As Duncan explains, “The fear of insurrection, coupled with the knowledge that Campbell would fine or jail those who mistreated blacks, meant black power…. White fears were not unfounded. In June 1871, the white magistrate, J. P. Gilson, had Campbell arrested on a bench warrant from Fulton County. On the day of the hearing three hundred armed blacks filled the courtroom and surrounded the building. Campbell had notified them of the trial by having the black bailiff, Hamilton Jackson, spread the word through the militia organization. Describing the blacks’ reaction to Campbell’s arraignment, one observer commented that, ‘before Judge Gilson, a large number of Negroes were present acting in a very excited and threatening manner and evincing a demonstration to resist by force of arms his [Campbell’s] imprisonment… this gathering was called by Campbell and controlled by him.’ Another white citizen predicted that ‘if they had put him in jail the n—–s would have put the jail in the River.’ Bowing to his fears and to Campbell’s power, Gilson released him.”

It was this power that allowed Campbell to stay in office for several years after Reconstruction had ended in Georgia. Russel Duncan’s Freedom’s Shore is an important antidote to most textbook’s problematic treatment of the era that focuses on the battles between Congress and President Johnson and the white backlash. Stories like Campbell’s need to make their way into the classroom and Freedom’s Shore is a good place to start.

ISBN: 9780820309057  | Published by University of Georgia Press

 

Cause (Book) | Zinn Education ProjectTanya Bolden’s Cause: Reconstruction America, 1863-1877 is one of the few non-fiction texts on Reconstruction aimed at young readers. It is a strong alternative to the textbook treatment of the era.

Like many textbooks, Cause focuses mainly on the battles between President Andrew Johnson and Congress, and the white supremacist backlash against civil rights in the South. However, Bolden’s book is much more comprehensive and touches on people’s history themes, moments, and figures that most textbooks ignore: Black landownership in the Sea Islands, the potential for land reform in Congress, William Whipper and Charlotte Rollins’ efforts in South Carolina for women’s rights, the debates between abolitionists and feminists at the end of the war, the National Labor Union, Isaac Myers, and the fight for an interracial labor movement.

The book even covers Indian resistance to the government’s land grabs and the struggle of Chinese workers for better wages and working conditions in the West—something completely absent in most accounts of Reconstruction.

Unfortunately, possibly in an attempt to present an alternative to the textbook or simply to try and remain “neutral,” the book can often seem like a list of facts without a broader political and economic analysis. This can make the book difficult to read, despite its aim at being accessible to young readers. Nevertheless, Cause, is a good alternative for middle school teachers looking for a non-fiction account of Reconstruction.

ISBN: 9780375827969 | Published by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers.

People’s Climate March, 201 | Zinn Education Project

People’s Climate March, September 24, 2014, New York City. Image: Joe Brusky.

These days, it seems that no place is safe. When we wrote this role play, each of us was living in Portland, Oregon—hardly ground zero for fossil fuel extraction. And yet, fossil fuels have become part of our physical and political landscape. There are still three proposals to bring millions of tons of coal every year down the Columbia River, by barge and rail, to be exported to Asia from Oregon and Washington. Trains filled with highly explosive Bakken Field oil from North Dakota regularly snake through the Portland metropolitan area, and one oil project alone — Tesoro Savage in Vancouver, Washington — would ship up to 360,000 barrels of crude oil every day and require at least four daily mile-and-a-half-long oil-only trains to keep the spigot open. Multiple proposals are still alive to export liquefied natural gas, as well as one of the largest industrial development projects in Portland’s history, to export propane.

The paradoxical feature of the fossil fuel industry’s imperial ambitions is that the more that communities are threatened or affected, the more likely these communities are to be drawn into the fight against fossil fuels and for greener alternatives. As we write, 13 Greenpeace activists hang from the St. Johns Bridge over the Willamette River in Portland, and the river itself is filled with “kayaktivists” — water-borne demonstrators — all seeking to block a Shell Oil icebreaker, the Fennica, attempting to make its way to the Arctic to help Shell drill for oil in the Chukchi Sea.

Download lesson to continue reading.

Roles include:

  • A member of New Era Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, United States
  • Anti-Coal Activists, Haimen, China
  • ecoCheyenne, Northern Cheyenne, Montana, United States
  • Swarthmore Mountain Justice, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, United States
  • Our Hamburg, Our Grid, Hamburg, Germany
  • “The Warriors of Sompeta” Sompeta, India
  • Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Alberta, Canada

Received historical wisdom casts abolitionists as bourgeois, mostly white reformers burdened by racial paternalism and economic conservatism. Manisha Sinha overturns this image, broadening her scope beyond the antebellum period usually associated with abolitionism and recasting it as a radical social movement in which men and women, black and white, free and enslaved found common ground in causes ranging from feminism and utopian socialism to anti-imperialism and efforts to defend the rights of labor.

Drawing on extensive archival research, including newly discovered letters and pamphlets, Sinha documents the influence of the Haitian Revolution and the centrality of slave resistance in shaping the ideology and tactics of abolition. This book is a comprehensive new history of the abolition movement in a transnational context. It illustrates how the abolitionist vision ultimately linked the slave’s cause to the struggle to redefine American democracy and human rights across the globe. [Publisher’s description]

“In emphasizing abolitionism’s long historical trajectory, its international perspective, and its interracial character, Sinha situates her story firmly within the most up-to-date trends in historical writing; and with her extensive research and broad command of the era, she has produced a work of high originality and broad popular appeal.”—Eric Foner, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery

ISBN:9780300227116 | Published by Yale University Press

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Child labor activist and feminist, Harriet Hanson Robinson. Photo: www.librarything.com.

Harriet Hanson Robinson’s Characteristics of the Early Factory Girls (1898).

Harriet Hanson Robinson  began working in the textile mills when she was ten years old. Boston capitalist began building mills and hiring young women from rural New England as their labor force assuming them to be docile. Instead they organzied  and agitated for better working conditions.

Film clip description

Harriet Hanson Robinson recalls a “turn out” or strike and the working conditions of the women in the factory in the 1830s. Robinson’s account is read by Lili Taylor on October 22, 2004, at The New York Society for Ethical Culture, New York, NY. The excerpt is from Voices of a People’s History of the United States edited by Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove.

Lili Taylor reads Harriet Hanson Robinson's Characteristics of the Early Factory Girls (1898), recalling a strike in the 1830s from Voices of a People's History on Vimeo.

More video clips can be found at the Voices of a People’s History website and in the film The People Speak.

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If you’ve ever wondered about where Native Americans came from, whether they really used smoke signals, or if they wore socks, this book has the answers. From clothing, food, origins, ceremonies, and language to love, marriage, art, music, and casinos, Do All Indians Live in Tipis? debunks widespread stereotypes and answers all of the most common questions about Native Americans. Accessible and enlightening, this is the perfect introduction to Native American history and contemporary culture.

$14.99

Published by HarperCollins.

ISBN: 9780061153013

Author

The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian is dedicated to working in collaboration with the indigenous peoples of the Americas to foster and protect Native cultures throughout the Western Hemisphere. The museum’s publishing program seeks to augment awareness of Native American beliefs and ways of life and to educate the public about the history and significance of Native cultures.

 

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Schomburg“Where is our historian to give us our side? To teach our people our own history?” asks Afro-Puerto Rican Arturo Schomburg on the first page of this beautifully illustrated picture book. Schomburg’s 5th-grade teacher had told him “Africa’s sons and daughters had no history, no heroes worth noting.”

Schomburg dedicated his life to ensuring that future generations would learn of Africa and African Americans’ powerful heritage. He set out to write, research, and collect the stories that chronicled the Black history of the Diaspora. Filling every nook and cranny of his family home in Harlem, his collection was eventually donated to the now famous Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York.

ISBN: 9780763680466 | Published by Candlewick Press (MA).

Crossing Ebenezer Creek is an extraordinary book of historical fiction about the December 9, 1864 Massacre at Ebenezer Creek, where, on the march to Savannah, thousands of African American families who had just escaped from slavery were left to drown by Sherman’s Army.

The protagonist is a young girl, Mariah, who flees slavery to join Sherman’s March. She escapes along with her younger brother and a woman who is mentally ill as a result of traumas on the plantation. Mariah recounts the daily and many forms of torture carried out by plantation owners.

Readers also learn how the enslaved resisted, protecting culture and family in any and every way they could.

In the epilogue, author Tonya Bolden explains that demands by Black ministers after the massacre led to the short-lived land distribution during Reconstruction known as Sherman’s Special Field Order No. 15.

ISBN: 9781599903194 | Published by Bloomsbury.

 

Ebenezer Massacre historic plaque

Georgia Historical Society marker. Click to read more.

 

Charles Sumner

Charles Sumner. Photo by Mathew Brady – Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Brady-Handy Photograph Collection.

“From the beginning of our history the country has been afflicted with compromise. It is by compromise that human rights have been abandoned.” — Senator Charles Sumner

Charles Sumner (Jan. 6, 1811 – Mar. 11, 1874) was a U.S. senator from Massachusetts. He was also a lawyer, powerful orator, leader of the anti-slavery forces in Massachusetts, and a leader of the Radical Republicans. He advocated for full recognition of Haiti, against the U.S.-Mexico War, for true Reconstruction with land distribution, against school segregation, and more.

On May 22, 1856, a couple of days after Charles Sumner gave his famous anti-slavery speech, “Crime Against Kansas,” he was beaten so badly in the Senate chambers that he could not return to office for three years.

George William Curtis recounted in his eulogy for Sumner on June 9, 1874 in the Boston Music Hall, that

When I argued with him [Charles Sumner] that opponents might be sincere, he thundered reply, “Upon such a question, there is no other side.”

 

Related Resources

Sarah’s Long Walk: The Free Blacks of Boston and How Their Struggle for Equality Changed America: On February 15, 1848, Benjamin Roberts filed the first school desegregation suit after his daughter Sarah was barred from a white school in Boston, Mass. The plaintiff’s attorneys were Charles Sumner and Robert Morris, one of the country’s first African-American lawyers. This was the first trial case about school segregation and indirectly related to the 1855 ban of segregated schools in all of the state of Massachusetts and the 1954 ban on segregated schools nationally.

 

Last Seen is an archive of thousands of “Information Wanted” advertisements taken out by people freed from slavery who are searching for family members. Their families were separated by the cruel and criminal institution of slavery which tore generations of families apart for close to three centuries.

The ads taken out in Black newspapers mention family members, often by name, and also by physical description, last seen locations, and at times by the name of a former slave master.

The archive, maintained by graduate students at Villanova University, can be a powerful tool in the classroom to tell stories of forced separation and survival during slavery, emancipation, and Civil War.

A few examples:

 

In the 19th and 20th centuries, Blacks were robbed of their land across the United States through a variety of techniques. Here are three resources to teach about this chapter of U.S. history and how it relates to wealth inequality today.

In his 2007 documentary Banished, filmmaker Marco Williams examined four examples of primarily white communities violently rising up to force their African-American neighbors to flee town.

In 2001, results from an 18-month investigation of Black land loss in America were published by The Associated Press. It turned up 107 of these land takings, 57 of which were violent, the other cases involved trickery and legal manipulations. Here are eight of these heartbreaking stories. [Atlanta Blackstar]

In a picture book that highlights rarely discussed intersections between Native Americans in the South and African Americans in bondage, a noted Choctaw storyteller and Cherokee artist join forces with stirring results. Set before the Civil War and the Trail of Tears, and told in the lulling rhythms of oral history, Crossing Bok Chitto opens with a Mississippi Choctaw girl who strays across the Bok Chitto River into the world of Southern plantations, where she befriends a boy who is enslaved and his family.

When trouble comes, the desperate runaways flee to freedom, helped by their own fierce desire (which renders them invisible to their pursuers) and by the Choctaws’ secret route across the river. In her first paintings for a picture book, Bridges conveys the humanity and resilience of both peoples in forceful acrylics, frequently centering on dignified figures standing erect before moody landscapes. [Description from Booklist review.]

ISBN: 9781933693200 | Published by Cinco Puntos Press

The Fog Machine is historical fiction set against the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement, from 1954 to 1964, through the eyes of a young Black woman who’s left Mississippi for Chicago, a 12-year-old white girl, and a Chicago law student and Jewish Freedom Summer volunteer from New York City. Their lives collide as each person questions what freedom means and the price they’ll pay to have it.

Learn more about the book at the website of author Susan Follett.

ISBN: 9781941038505 | Published by Lucky Sky Press

Reviews

“Insightful and highly readable. Written with sensitivity and insight about the nature of prejudice. The Fog Machine will resonate with teens and older readers alike.” —John Dittmer, author, Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi

“Captures essential, often overlooked elements of the Freedom Schools: teachers encouraged to improvise in response to their students and African Americans courageously offering hospitality to young whites from the North. Bravo!”
—Staughton Lynd, Freedom School Coordinator, MS Freedom Summer

“Your fictional Freedom Summer students and teachers GOT IT. Thank you for remembering my brother. Great book! Great job!”
—Ben Chaney, James Earl Chaney Foundation founder

“Follett’s ear has perfect pitch in capturing the ingrained attitudes, nuanced feelings, and voices of hope at the 1964 Meridian Freedom School. Children naturally play together; it’s the grownups who teach them to hate and fear. The more we reveal how that happens, the more we can be hopeful about changing it.”
—Mark Levy, coordinator, 1964 Meridian Freedom School

Beaches, Blood, and Ballots is Dr. Gilbert R. Mason’s eyewitness account of harrowing episodes that occurred on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi during the civil rights movement. Newly opened by court order, documents from the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission’s secret files enhance this riveting memoir written by a major civil rights figure in Mississippi. He joined his friends and allies Aaron Henry and the martyred Medgar Evers to combat injustices in one of the nation’s most notorious bastions of segregation.

In Mississippi, the civil rights struggle began in May 1959 with “wade-ins.” In open and conscious defiance of segregation laws, Mason led nine black Biloxians onto a restricted spot along the twenty-six-mile beach. A year later more wade-ins on beaches reserved for whites set off the bloodiest race riot in the state’s history and led the U.S. Justice Department to initiate the first-ever federal court challenge of Mississippi’s segregationist laws and practices. Simultaneously, Mason and local activists began their work on the state’s first school desegregation suit. As the coordinator of the strategy, he faced threats to his life.

Mason’s memoir gives readers a documented journey through the daily humiliations that segregation and racism imposed upon the black populace — upon fathers, mothers, children, laborers, and professionals.

Dr. Gilbert Mason, shown here being escorted by police to a Biloxi, Mississippi courthouse, led the black community in a series of “wade-in” protests to desegregate Biloxi’s twenty-six-mile-long shoreline. (AP Images)

Born in 1928 in Jackson, Mason acknowledges the impact of his strong extended family and of the supportive system of institutions in the black neighborhood. They nurtured him to manhood and helped fulfill his dream of becoming a physician.

His story recalls the great migration of blacks to the North, of family members who remained in Mississippi, of family ties in Chicago and other northern cities. Following graduation from Tennessee State and Howard University Medical College, he set up his practice in the black section of Biloxi in 1955 and experienced the restrictions that even a black physician suffered in the segregated South. Four years later, he began his battle to dismantle the Jim Crow system. This is the story of his struggle and hard-won victory. [Publisher’s description]

Learn more about this Civil Rights Watershed in Biloxi.

ISBN: 9781934110287 | Published by University Press of Mississippi

An up-close study of a pinnacle moment in the struggle and of those who fought for change.

Once in a great while, a photograph captures the essence of an era: Three people–one black and two white–demonstrate for equality at a lunch counter while cigarette-smoking hotshots pour catsup, sugar, and other condiments on the protesters’ heads and down their backs. The image strikes a chord for all who lived through those turbulent times of a changing America.

The photograph, which plays a central role in the book’s perspectives from frontline participants, caught a moment when the raw virulence of racism crashed against the defiance of visionaries. It now shows up regularly in books, magazines, videos, and museums that endeavor to explain America’s largely nonviolent civil rights battles of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Yet for all of the photograph’s celebrated qualities, the people in it and the events they inspired have only been sketched in civil rights histories. It is not well known, for instance, that it was this event that sparked to life the civil rights movement in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1963. Sadly, this same sit-in and the protest events it inspired led to the assassination of Medgar Evers, who was leading the charge in Jackson for the NAACP.

We Shall Not Be Moved puts the Jackson Woolworth’s sit-in into historical context. Part multifaceted biography, part well-researched history, this gripping narrative explores the hearts and minds of those participating in this harrowing sit-in experience. It was a demonstration without precedent in Mississippi–one that set the stage for much that would follow in the changing dynamics of the state’s racial politics, particularly in its capital city.

M. J. O’Brien, Vienna, Virginia, is a writer and researcher who served for twenty-five years as the chief communications and public relations officer for a national not-for-profit cooperative. He serves on the board of Teaching for Change.

ISBN: 9781628460353 | Published by University Press of Mississippi

Based on her father’s experience in 1960s North Carolina, Pamela Tuck tells how a family and community challenge racism where they work, shop, and go to school.

The protagonist, 14-year-old Mason, is the letter writer for the local African American civil rights committee. In appreciation, they give him a typewriter. His typing skills help him open doors when he attends the formerly all-white high school. There is no sugarcoating of the racism Mason faces. In fact, when he wins a county typing competition, not one audience member applauds. Instead, Mason finds love, admiration, and strength from his family and community.

As Fast As Words Could Fly could be used to introduce the history beyond the big demonstrations about the fight for civil rights. It would lend itself well to a group read and discussion, and could also be a wonderful source of prompts for writing from the perspective of different characters. For grade 3 and above.

ISBN: 9781600603488 | Published by Children’s Book Press (CA)

In a magisterial work of narrative nonfiction that weaves together the racially fraught history of public education in Milwaukee and the broader story of hypersegregation in the rust belt, Lessons from the Heartland tells of an iconic city’s fall from grace—and of its chance for redemption in the twenty-first century.

A symbol of middle American working-class values and pride, Wisconsin—and in particular urban Milwaukee—has been at the forefront of a half-century of public education experiments, from desegregation and “school choice,” to vouchers and charter schools. Picking up where J. Anthony Lukas’s Pulitzer Prize–winning Common Ground left off, Lessons from the Heartland offers a sweeping narrative portrait of an all-American city at the epicenter of American public education reform, and an exploration of larger issues of race and class in our democracy. Miner (whose daughters went through the Milwaukee public school system and who is a former Milwaukee Journal reporter) brings a journalist’s eye and a parent’s heart to exploring the intricate ways that jobs, housing, and schools intersect, underscoring the intrinsic link between the future of public schools and the dreams and hopes of democracy in a multicultural society. [Publisher’s description.]

ISBN: 9781595588296 | Published by New Press

In Daybreak of Freedom, Stewart Burns presents a documentary history of the boycott. Using an array of more than one hundred original documents, he crafts a comprehensive account of this celebrated year-long protest of racial segregation.

Daybreak of Freedom reverberates with the voices of those closest to the bus boycott, ranging from Martin Luther King and his inner circle, to Jo Ann Robinson and other women leaders who started the protest, to the maids, cooks, and other ‘foot soldiers’ who carried out the struggle.

ISBN: 9780807846612 | Published by University of North Carolina Press

Reviews

“A skillfully edited, handsomely designed volume that will be proven useful to anyone interested in the civil rights movement.”–Journal of Southern History

“Scholars who are striving to broaden the context and deepen our understanding of the civil rights movement will appreciate the multiple perspectives in Daybreak of Freedom. . . . [It] is a treasure trove of possibilities for any teacher who uses primary sources, whether in a high school survey or a graduate seminar. Not only are the documents compelling and well organized, but Burns’s editorial explanations are clear and helpful.”–Journal of American History